Editor’s Note: For all the shiny new watches we come across every week, nothing gets our hearts racing like a great vintage timepiece. These are watches with stories, some known, some lost to history. Watches from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s come from an era when a man’s timepiece was his everyday carry, a tool for the job that wasn’t put away when things got down and dirty. Many vintage watches bear the marks of use that we endearingly call “patina”, and remain that much more lovely in spite of (or because of) it.
The other appealing aspect of vintage watches is their rarity. Even the most common old timepieces are becoming harder to find in good shape. So while you can walk into a retailer and buy a brand new watch anytime, finding a good vintage piece requires patience, persistence, research and legwork. This leads us to our new series, Timekeeping Selects, a partnership with Analog/Shift, the New York-based purveyor of vintage watches. We’ve done the legwork for you, handpicking the coolest, most unique old watches, all of which have impeccable authenticity and are serviced and ready to wear.
For all the clichés surrounding Rolex, the fact of the matter is the Swiss brand has been building some of the sturdiest, most timelessly stylish and iconic watches of the past century. Consider the history: Rolex pioneered the waterproof case, the screw-down crown, the automatic winding rotor and the first automatically-changing date function. Rolex was the first watch on top of Everest and at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. And aside from all the accomplishments, a Rolex tends to hold its value better than just about any other timepiece.
Most watch enthusiasts either own a Rolex, have owned one, or will own one (or a second one). If you don’t yet, here’s a good candidate for your first: the 1971 Oyster Precision (
$2,200 Sold). It isn’t as well known as its GMT, Explorer or Submariner brethren, but that’s why we like it. It flies a bit under the radar, sporting baton hands, a smooth, polished bezel, and a lovely, textured cream dial that collectors call “linen”. At 35mm, it’s a little smaller than other Rollies, but the broad, light-colored dial means it wears a bit bigger and remains versatile for everyday wear. The legendary Oyster case with screw-in Twinlock crown mean it’s no delicate flower, but robust enough for daily knocks and splashes. A sturdy, hand-cranked calibre 1215 is rarer than the ubiquitous automatics (“Perpetuals”, in Rolex-speak) and allows the daily pleasure of winding.
This 1971 Oyster Precision is extra special, and not just because it was recently tuned: it comes with its original green box, Rolex guarantee (long since expired) and 19mm steel bracelet with the Rolex logo on the clasp. It comes packaged with a selection of Crown & Buckle leather and nylon NATO straps.